The Washington Post reports on new study by the Pentagon showing no drop in the overall level of violence in Iraq since the troop surge. Violence has diminished in the areas targeted by the surge — Baghdad and Anbar province. However, increased violence elsewhere apparently offsets these numerical gains.
Many will argue that this report shows (or at least suggests — the final returns are not yet in) the futility of our effort. I disagree. Not all parts of Iraq are equally important. Anbar province is unique because it is (a) Sunni country and (b) a generally rural area in which Islamic fundamentalism is particularly strong. This makes Anbar province the most likely territory in which al-Qaeda could establish a base of operations for the export of terrorism. If al-Qaeda fighters are forced out of Anbar province, they may cause violence elsewhere, but their operations pose less of threat to U.S. interests.
Baghdad, of course, is the capital of Iraq. Securing and stabilizing the capital, even at the expense of increased violence elsewhere, represents a net gain. In Afghanistan, Kabul seems reasonably stable while the government apparently holds little sway in other parts of the country. Though not ideal, this situation is not seen as hugely problematic. Getting to something like that point in Iraq would be a big deal.
Unfortunately, however, in the present political climate the gains produced by the surge in the areas where it has occurred are not sufficient to make the war politically sustainable. This is particularly tru given the lack of political progress achieved by the Iraqis, which the Penatagon report also describes.
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